[Editor’s note: Thomas Peterffy is a Hungarian-born American entrepreneur and businessman. After immigrating to the United States at the age of 21 without speaking English, Peterffy worked as an architectural draftsman and then as a software designer. He bought a seat on the American Stock Exchange in 1977 and was a pioneer in the electronic trading of securities. He founded Interactive Brokers Group, which he leads as chairman and CEO. Peterffy serves on the Board of Trustees of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
On June 2, 2017, Peterffy was awarded the Grand Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. At the Parliament building in Budapest, he made the following remarks.]
Prime Minister and dear friends, I am most grateful and deeply touched as I accept this honor. To me this is a very special occasion in a very special building, because my great- great-grandfather, Tamas Pechy, became a member of this parliament in 1868, and after serving for twelve years, was elected to be its president. Reelected to that post three times, he served in that capacity for an additional 12 years, the longest period for anyone in this post in the history of free Hungary. It is a testimony to his character that when his son, my great-grandfather, who was also, at the same time, a member of this Parliament, suddenly died of lung disease at age 30, Tamas relentlessly carried on his presidential duties. It was under his presidential leadership, during the so-called happy peacetimes, that many of this country’s modern laws and institutions were established, and the creation of this magnificent building, at the conclusion of many fierce debates, was finally decided.
People say to me that it is incredible that I went to America with nothing and have become so successful. That isn’t so—I did not go with nothing. I went with the blessing of my ancestors and in full awareness of their dreams and accomplishments, constantly feeling the compelling force of my heritage for exceptional performance. This nation, Hungary, lived through one of the cruelest experiments in world history, the needless suffering that people can bring upon themselves with collectivism or socialism.
The Hungarian people have a huge advantage in that they know, not only intellectually but also emotionally, that national collectivism cannot work in any form. This is the reason why a nation must be aware of its history, national character and heritage, traditions, gifts and advantages, upon which each individual will build his or her own life and future. Given that, the only thing I needed to succeed was the knowledge that in America individual liberty and the freedom to succeed are protected by the Constitution. We should thank God that this is now also true in Hungary, and we should do everything in our power to make sure that this will remain so, going forward, in both countries. Thank you for the award and thank you all for coming.